Noticeably, the enjoinment to build the Shulchan, Table, precedes that of the Menorah. In the Kisvei Chasam Sofer, the Chasam Sofer cites a Kadmon, early Rishon, who explains this based on Chazal who rationalize that Zevullun, the brother who engaged in commerce, precedes Yissachar, who devoted himself wholly to Torah study. In order for Yissachar to be able to learn unimpeded by worry over his financial obligations, it is critical that he be supported by the tomchei Torah, supporters of Torah. Likewise, the Shulchan, which represents sustenance, precedes the Menorah, the symbol of Torah. Bearing this in mind, the Ksav Sofer wonders why the Aron HaKodesh, which is the repository of Torah and represents Torah at its pristine zenith, should likewise also be preceded by the Shulchan.
The Ksav Sofer distinguishes between two types of talmid chacham, Torah scholar; one who is a tzaddik gamur, perfectly righteous; and one who has yet to achieve this apex of spiritual devotion. The one who is a paragon of spirituality, whose faith and trust in Hashem parallels his erudition, who is similar to Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa (whose trust in Hashem was unequivocal; he represents the exemplar of spirituality) does not require Zevullun’s support. Indeed, he supports Zevullun! The scholar, however, who has not attained this level of trust, still requires the support of Zevullun.
We now understand why the Aron precedes the Shulchan. The Aron is placed in the Kodesh HaKedoshim, Holy of Holies. It is the receptacle in which the Two Luchos, Tablets, were placed. The Aron understandably signifies the scholar whose Torah study supports Zevullun’s commerce. It is Zevullun’s great merit to partner with Yissachar’s Torah study. The Menorah, however, represents the Torah scholar who is devoted to Torah and has achieved a significant level of erudition. His learning notwithstanding, he has yet to scale the ladder of spirituality as does his counterpart, who is represented by the Aron.
I think the Aron’s precedence to the Shulchan imparts a powerful message: Pure Torah precedes everything. Zevullun’s support of Yissachar is only due to the fact that he understands the true value of Torah. A Zevullun who contributes because of the fanfare and accolades that he garners will only give as long as he is recognized to be a significant partner and even (in his own mind) greater than Yissachar. Such support hardly lasts. Thus, this Zevullun seeks attention more than he wants to support Yissachar. While it is important to manifest our gratitude to him, we must remember that easy come – easy go. We can lose it at any time if our homage misses its mark.